Professor Rabiat Akande publishes “provocative account” of British rule in Northern Nigeria, its governance of religion and its impact today

Photo of Professor Rabiat Akande on white background
Professor Rabiat Akande

A new book by Professor Rabiat Akande is being hailed as a “novel commentary on the dynamic interplay between law, faith, identity and power.”

The book, Entangled Domains: Empire, Law and Religion in Northern Nigeria, focuses on colonial northern Nigeria, drawing on detailed archival research from two continents to vividly illustrate the constitutional struggles that were triggered by the colonial state’s governance of religion – as well as the legacy of that governance agenda in the postcolonial state. It was published in May by Cambridge University Press.

According to the publisher’s description, the book examines how the colonial state paradoxically insisted on its separation from religion, even as it governed its multi-religious population through what remained of the precolonial caliphate. In the process, the book offers a “provocative account of secularism as a contested yet contingent mode of governing religion and religious difference.”

Samuel Moyn, a professor of law and history at Yale Law School, calls the book an “impressive achievement in a book jacket quotation.

“With the shift away from sponsoring Christian missionary projects, the British empire turned to indirect rule with secularist features,” he is quoted as saying. “In this enterprising history of law and politics in northern Nigeria between past and present, Rabiat Akande illuminates how such secularism intruded on religious and social identity and reshaped it, with profound legacies for the constitutionalism that followed in the postcolony.”

Akande works in the fields of legal history, law and religion, constitutional and comparative constitutional law, Islamic law, international law and post-colonial African law and society. In 2019, she graduated with her doctor of juridical science (SJD) degree from Harvard University. She taught courses at Harvard Law School and at Harvard’s Department for African and African American Studies. She also served as adjunct faculty at Northeastern University School of Law. Prior to her graduate work, she was an associate at G. Elias Solicitors and Advocates in Lagos, Nigeria.